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March 1, 2013 6:00am
Julia Butterfly Hill: Psyche by name...
It is one thing to want to act; it is another thing to take action; and it is an another thing still to act consciously to bring about lasting change.
Sometimes the most effective activism takes place during ordinary encounters with family, friends, and even strangers—each interaction a chance to educate by example, embodying our ethical beliefs as best we can. In Living Among Meat Eaters
, Carol Adams helps us become more aware of the message we're sending, with self-tests, strategies, meditations on vegetarianism, and tips for dining out and entertaining at home when meat eaters are on the invite list.
In Consciousness in Action: The Power of Beauty, Love, and Courage in a Violent Time
, Andrew Beath has gathered the wisdom of several leading spiritual activists (John Mack, Julia Butterfly Hill, and others) to show how right mind and right livelihood can bring about enormous change. The activists talk about aligning their spiritual values with their wish to bring about social and political change.
Will Tuttle in The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony
offers a powerful and polemical call for us to recognize that our choices not only impact the lives of others but also make us healthy or sick. We can no longer separate our lives from the lives of the beings who live with us on this planet, and, conversely, working for the good of others is working for the good of ourselves.
January 11, 2013 6:00am
Hillary Rettig: An effective advocate
Many of us want to create change in the world, but face tremendous obstacles in getting our message out. The powers that be have vastly more resources at their disposal than activists do. But some of our authors have discovered how to shift the balance of power.
In Strategic Action for Animals
, Melanie Joy explains how to use strategy to exponentially increase the effectiveness of activism for animals. Drawing on diverse movements and sources, she offers tried and true tactics and explains how to address the most common problems that weaken activists' efforts. Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich's The Animal Activist's Handbook
builds a ground-up case for reasoned, impassioned, and joyous activism that makes the most difference possible. They also suggest a variety of ways to live a meaningful life through effective and efﬁcient advocacy.
September 27, 2012 10:37am
The ability to protest peacefully and to voice unpopular opinions without being arrested and imprisoned arbitrarily are cornerstones of the U.S. Constitution, and are the reasons why, in spite of the many limitations imposed upon sectors of its society over the centuries, the dominant order has been forced to change to allow people of color, women, and others to take their place in society.
Animals raised for their flesh or body products, however, remain without even the most basic natural
rights: to move around, to associate with their conspecifics, to breathe clean air, and to nest or wallow or graze. They rely, as do all non-human animals, on human beings to speak up for them and articulate those basic rights, as well as to challenge those who are either indifferent to, or actively complicit in harming, their welfare.
Since the passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA)
in 2006, however, the ability to document abuses, draw attention to the horrors, and raise public awareness about the suffering of animals in factory farms or scientific laboratories has been substantially curtailed. Further laws
have either been passed or proposed that would make it a crime to videotape animal abuse without the facility's permission!
We at Lantern not only believe that cruelty toward animals is wrong but that the freedom to disseminate information (no matter how upsetting) is the cornerstone (indeed, very definition) of a free society. And we've made a commitment to publishing in this very area. In Muzzling the Movement
an in-depth and tightly argued analysis of the case of the SHAC-7
, the organization whose supposed activities ultimately led to the passage of the AETA, lawyer Dara Lovitz reveals the history behind the AETA, examines the tendentious and speculative government case against the SHAC activists, and in so doing shows how the U.S. government has deeply compromised the freedom of speech and protest enshrined in the Constitution.
The AETA was passed as a means for industry and government to respond to some industrial sabotage and animal rescue undertaken by animal activists. The books listed below ask tough questions not only about how far is too far for animal activists to go in prosecuting their cause (note: no animal activist has killed or maimed anyone in the United States), and whether destroying machinery and targeting the homes of individuals either directly or tangentially involved in industries that harm animals is a good idea.
Doing undercover investigative work and being the subject of a criminal prosecution as a terrorist is no joke. (Ask Daniel McGowan
, the subject of the sad and moving documentary If a Tree Falls
.) pattrice jones's Aftershock
examines the traumatic effects on activists who have been arrested or abused by government agents, as part of a deeper analysis of trauma within the animal rights community. It's essential reading for anyone who exposes themselves to the full force of the law, and anyone who wants to understand the depth of embedded trauma within society as a whole.
July 12, 2012 6:00am
Frederick Douglass: Weatherman
The nineteenth-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass perhaps summed up the philosophy of direct action best: "If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning."
Two recent movements that have decided to thunder and plow the ground are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Both groups are committed to direct action. They don't believe the earth or the animals who share the planet with us "belong" to anyone; nor that the earth or animals are our "property." So they break into and/or destroy private property, either covertly or overtly, and rescue animals from mink farms or labs, or they burn down ski resorts or other places that contribute to environmental destruction. Although their rhetoric may seem violent to some, those who subscribe to the ALF and ELF philosophy don't believe in physically harming any being, including humans.
June 28, 2012 6:00am
Sometimes all it takes is one.
What are the opportunities and challenges of being an activist?
First of all, there's the question of balancing activism with the rest of your life. Activists often feel they have to give everything to their cause, at the expense of everything else. This can lead to burnout, imbalance, and a sense of futility. Hillary Rettig's The Lifelong Activist
is a wonderful companion for anyone who is, is contemplating becoming, or knows, an activist. It teaches you very practical steps and measures to take to make sure that activism is a joy not a burden and that every achievement leads you on to another.
So, how do you do what you need to do to change things. Josephine Bellaccomo's Move the Message
is the perfect book to help you plan and execute your activism in as efficient, empowering, and effective a way as possible. From the very outset of planning and targeting your campaign, to using volunteers well and shaping your message, from talking to power brokers to taking it to the street, Move the Message
not only helps you run a successful campaign, but provides invaluable insights into how you can be effective in all aspects of your professional life.
But why do some messages hit their mark while others are resisted? What are the psychological mechanisms by which change is affected or delayed? These questions are addressed in Change of Heart
by Nick Cooney. Nick has combed through the social science journals to show the lengths to which we humans will go to avoid having to change our opinions (!) and the techniques that activists, marketers, and others has used to break down our barriers. The book is written for non-profits, community organizers, and others so decisions can be made in their advocacy work—but it's applicable to anyone seeking to persuade someone else of the virtue of a new idea.
Finally, how do you sustain yourself psychologically in the face of violence and trauma. In Aftershock
, long-time activist pattrice jones illustrates the importance of recognizing post-traumatic stress disorder and preventing yourself from being overwhelmed and isolated. She talks about the importance of honoring your body, supporting your friends, and trusting in your feelings, and also provides very hard-headed and practical advice on getting through the toughest of tough situations.
March 1, 2012 12:35pm
A Practical Peacemaker Ponders . . .
Two weeks ago I blogged in this space about "The Story of Chickens," a project sponsored by the Spencer Art Museum at the University of Kansas (KU). This so-called "art" exhibit called for the display of five chickens in a moveable coop at several locations in Lawrence, Kansas; the chickens were then to be slaughtered in public and served at a community potluck. I am happy to write today that the project has been substantially altered because local animal cruelty law does not permit slaughter within Lawrence city limits. No chickens will be displayed or slaughtered; the project has been reduced to the display of an empty coop and a concluding dinner. For details, see the news release from United Poultry Concerns
and yesterday's article in the Kansas City Star
In the midst of rejoicing about this, I noticed that a number of Lantern authors had become involved in actively opposing this project, helping to publicize it and urging others to join the outcry.
February 16, 2012 12:30pm
A Practical Peacemaker Ponders . . .
Today I sent the following letter to my alma mater, the University of Kansas, in protest of an upcoming exhibit at the university's Spencer Art Museum called "The Story of Chickens
." This project will encourage townspeople to get to know and care about five chickens over a period of time, then the chickens will be slaughtered in public and served at a potluck.
January 19, 2012 11:48am
Growthbuster Dave Gardner in action against growth profiteers.
A Practical Peacemaker Ponders . . .
For those of us concerned about poverty, environmental degradation, and climate change, the idea that economic growth underlies these problems will probably not come as a surprise. Growth-- higher production of consumer goods, stepped-up extraction of resources, more and bigger houses, freeways and shopping malls--has been accepted almost unconditionally as the best way to run governments and assure prosperity. It is seen as the most potent answer to lifting people out of poverty and assuring full employment. Go out and shop more, we are told. Few people dare to publicly challenge the American religion of growth, and those who do should be read, supported, and discussed.
Or in the case of one new documentary, watched. I'm referring to Growthbusters: Hooked on Growth
?), in which Dave Gardner, a courageous citizen of Colorado Springs, Colorado, becomes sufficiently fed up with the development, congestion, and depletion of resources he sees around him to run for his city council.
January 19, 2011 11:12pm
Farmer's Market in Lhasa (photo: Nathan Freitas)
Our industrialized, resource-intensive agricultural system is once again contributing to food instability. Food prices spiked along with oil prices in 2008, and there were food riots all over the globe, from Mexico to Africa to India.
In the past few days, world food prices have reached a new high, and there are riots in Algeria over the problem. The cost of such common ingredients as flour and cooking oil has doubled in just a few months in Algeria, and unemployment is estimated to be around 25 percent. Protesters have ransacked government buildings, banks, and post offices.
This is not the most serious incident since the beginning of the year related to rising food prices. The riots in Tunisia
have resulted in the fall of the government. In Jordan
, thousands of demonstrators protested rising food prices and unemployment.
December 31, 2010 11:59pm
Farmer's Market in Lhasa (Photo: Nathan Freitas)
I've been trying to get people in the Transition movement interested in vegetarianism for some time. ("Transition" is a group originating in the U. K. dedicated to local planning for a post-carbon future.) However, a recent discussion of plant-based nutrition on the "Transition Culture" blog
gave vent to some pretty blatant resistance to plant-based nutrition at the very top of the Transition movement.
In the middle of a back-and-forth discussion about the future of the Transition movement, the "Permavegan" (Jonathan Maxson) politely tried to raise the question of plant based nutrition on what I thought were fairly straightforward scientific grounds. To put it mildly, a lot of people blasted him unfairly, viciously, and without apology.
September 14, 2010 1:05pm
A Practical Peacemaker Ponders . . .
Vegetarian activists have long known that one of the most effective ways to persuade people toward a plant-based diet is by serving them delicious food. Besides being effective, it's also totally non-confrontational, and you don't need to know the fine points of the issues, like why even well-managed grazing is detrimental to the environment. Just pass the plate.
My neighborhood association gets together with a nearby church for a combined annual picnic on the church lawn in September, which includes a bake-off contest.
August 9, 2010 11:20am
Why is Bruce Friedrich willing to go up against debate teams at the brainiest schools in our nation over and over again? Because his argument (that eating meat doesn't make sense if given even a few minutes of thought) is watertight.
Read all about it at The Huffington Post
, and get plenty of tips from Bruce in The Animal Activist's Handbook
June 9, 2010 1:12pm
Watch for a glimpse of Lantern's Terrorists or Freedom Fighters
in the trailer for the new feature film, Bold Native
The film, about animal/environmental rights and the A.E.T.A., premieres a week from Friday in Los Angeles. No New York dates yet, but if you plan on attending AR 2010
you can catch the film there.